Communication between Science and Politics

By: Mara Sanders

            In the current political climate where opinions are a viable substitute for facts and critical thought, it is more important than ever for scientists to be involved in the political process. While most political discussions turn into a shouting match or worse, it is important that scientists find ways to engage in politics and the public in order to make research findings more understandable. Scientific voices are highly valued by non-profits, lobbying groups and other movements when talking with elected officials. It is important to find an organization that represents your beliefs, values and that is fighting for causes you believe in. Belonging to organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Food & Water Watch or the Sierra Club make it easy for their members to impact the political process by organizing events, congressional visits or identifying what steps need to be taken to reach their goals.

            If you cannot find an organization that aligns with your specific aims you can be your own advocate or you can join the less politically, but more professionally driven societies in your field. These societies will avoid the more controversial issues and focus more on funding, jobs, and research programs. If you are really passionate about letting the voice of science (and reason) be heard there are programs that place scientists in elected officials’ offices as aids and advisors so that they can share their views on many important issues. The most well-known program like this is the AAAS fellowships.

            For the most dedicated among us, there are training programs offered from many universities (including Rutgers) to help scientists make the leap into politics by giving them the training necessary to run for elected office. No matter what path you choose as a scientist, I hope that you include some outreach to elected officials, the public, or people you meet to explain to them the validity and importance of research funding, scientific studies, and education for our planet and future generations.

Are your experiences similar?  Different?  Can you add some insights?  Please submit to the PSMblog your thoughts, comments and experiences.